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Q: I worry about all the junk food my daughter eats when she’s away from home. How can I teach her to make better food choices?
A: As a parent, you can model good eating habits, provide healthful family meals and set limits on foods with little nutritional value.
Explain to your child how proper nutrition fuels her body for learning, growth, sports and play. Underscore that eating large amounts of empty-calorie foods leads to a low energy level and contributes excess calories that are stored as fat. Review the Food Guide Pyramid with her and encourage her to eat at least three food groups at every meal.
As an alternative to junk food, offer to pack healthy meals and snacks together (be sure to use an insulated bag with a refreezable ice pack to keep perishable foods safe):
- Beverages: water bottles, flavored milk, 100% fruit juice boxes
- Grains: whole grain crackers, pretzels, sandwiches made with 100% whole wheat bread, baked corn tortilla chips, low-fat granola bars (lower-sugar varieties)
- Fruits: dried apple rings, raisins, orange wedges, grapes, bananas
- Vegetables: baby carrots, pea pods, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes
- Protein: peanut butter, hummus, lean deli meats, tuna, soy nuts
- Dairy: string cheese, yogurt
Q: Should I be concerned that my 7-year-old always want seconds (and some#215 thirds!) at dinnertime?
A: It could be a sign that he’s in the midst of a growth spurt. Appetites vary tremendously throughout childhood, depending on the current level of activity, growth and development.
The following guidelines will help you promote healthy eating habits:
- Enjoy a distraction-free meal. Whenever possible, turn off the TV, cell phone and other distractions. Focus on each other, not the food. Slow down the pace of eating—it takes at least 20 minutes for our brain to #174ister “full.” Often, people who eat rapidly have a tendency to overeat.
- Set the menu and eating schedule. Parents should offer a variety of healthful foods, oversee the planning and preparation of meals, and set the schedule for meals and snacks.
- Respect their judgment. Children naturally have wide swings in their appetite, eating large quantities one day and virtually nothing the next. Accept it as final when your child says he is full, and don’t force them to clean their plate.
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Diet Boosters (Ages 2-5)
Tween Eating Habits (Ages 12-14)